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The Power of Validation
The Power of Validation
Relationships, and life in general, are often riddled with struggles and conflict. This includes parent-child relationships. Emotions sometimes run high. Often, we don't know what to do with our big emotions, like the frustration of not being understood or listened to. If we don't know how to navigate our big emotions, it can also be challenging to see our kids struggling with their big feelings.
Sometimes, we find ourselves reaching so desperately to get our kids to understand us and our boundaries, that power struggles ensue. There is also a tendency during conflict for us to hide from the problem and our big emotions that come with such conflicts. It seems much easier sweeping it all under the rug than feeling and processing them deeply, but it doesn't help the underlying issues: the root of the problem.
It's as if, in times of conflict, there is a sense that parents and their kids are on opposing teams: fighting to win this battle. When you are fighting to be understood, we are fighting to convince our children to come over on to your team. That we are right and they need to change their way of thinking in order to be right too. This is usually a losing battle. When our kids feel we see them as "wrong" they lose confidence in themselves and in their relationship with you.
It can be mutually beneficial to see that you and your child are on the same team. Fostering a relationship of mutual understanding is something you both want to do. By showing your child that you are on the same team, power struggles become less of a struggle.
Validation is a helpful tool in opening positive communication lines. Using validation, you can actually use times of conflict to the advantage of strengthening your relationship with your child. When the relationship is strong and our children feel unconditionally loved and understood, there is more mutual listening and cooperation. The relationship becomes more enjoyable for everyone! Here are some things to consider about the power of validation:
Everybody's Feelings are Valid!
Don't Expect Validation From Your Kids
Your kids can more easily accept your perspective if you accept theirs' more regularly. When they can count on us to be understanding, they can trust us more and push back less when we seek cooperation and consideration from them. It isn't natural for kids to be understanding the perspectives as others. As parents, we have to make a regular practice of using our emotional maturity and learn to validate ourselves AND our kids to maintain a balance leading to mutual understanding.
Validation Can Benefit All Relationships in Different Ways
It is natural for all people to want to "be right". When we feel "right", or valid, it gives us a sense that we are worthy of recognition; that we are important and competent. In times of conflict with our children (or anyone else in our lives, really), we can find ourselves struggling to be seen, heard, and understood. Everyone wants to be validated. Everyone wants to be seen, heard and recognized for their good intentions. Everyone wants others to care about their struggles and recognize their strengths.
Sometimes we fear that in validating others, like our kids, we invalidate ourselves. Really, validating others doesn't have to be a barrier. Validation can be a tool that opens up relationships to more "win-win" possibilities.
When we validate, we are showing our kids that we see their perspective as truth. It gives them a sense of "rightness", which lowers their defenses. We are able to do this best when we first see our own perspective as truth and remind ourselves that one of us doesn't have to be "wrong" in order for the other to be "right.
Self- validation paves the path. When we keep our own defenses down, it is easier for others (like our kids) to feel safe lowering their defenses as well. When both parties are less defensive, true listening and understanding can take place.
Nobody has to be "wrong"!
Power struggles often ensue when we know we are right and our kids know they are right. It might sound strange, but I believe that all parties can be right! Your child doesn't have to be wrong for you to be right, and vice versa. When your children are given validation, they feel a sense of rightness. When our kids feel validated, they feel that we trust their good nature. They trust we are on their side: on the same team. Validation keeps defenses down so you can reach mutual understanding!
What Validation Looks Like in Context
A few months ago, I was doing some school work with my 10 year old in a workbook. We have been homeschooling for the last several years. As I was checking some of her work, I realized she had "cheated". Meaning, she copied her answers out of the back of the book. I was filled with rage in an instant. I had to leave the room to keep from saying something hurtful.
In my room, I started questioning why I was feeling such a strong reaction to her actions. I talked myself through it. I value honesty and hard work. I worry about her not developing critical thinking skills or good work ethics. My anger is motivated by good intentions.
After validating myself, I was able to actually appreciate what she had done and thought up a gentler approach to address the situation. This was turning into a teachable moment for the both of us.
I validated her, first in my mind, then face to face with her. It really is a cleaver thing to do. If you have the answers, and it saves time and energy, it is a perfectly reasonable thing to copy the answers.
Then I explained my concerns. If you copy the answers when you are learning, you won't know how to find the answers yourself in real life when you need to. We did a few problems together, and actually discovered that it was fun to solve them!
Self-validation means recognizing the good intentions behind your feelings and reactions. It brings you into a place of mindfulness. If we are angry with our children, chances are it is because we love them and want what is best for them! Practicing self-validation also helps us to be better at validation the feelings, reactions, and actions of our children. Validation means that we trust the innate goodness of ourselves, our children, and other people in our lives, even when their actions don't seem to reflect that innate goodness.
Validation is about seeing our kids experience in the relationship as more valuable than us feeling in control.
Building a Relationship of Mutual Respect
When we show our children we respect them, they learn what it feels like to be respected. When we regularly respect our children, they learn by example how to respect others. In validating our kids, we show them that we respect them. We can see cooperation and consideration needs to go both ways and we can live more harmoniously because everyone is feeling respected and cared for.
Their experience matters to them, and they want it ot matter to you too!
Be Patient with the Process
If you have a history of engaging in power struggles with your kids, validation might not stop the struggles immediately. It will take time and practice for you as you practice this new pattern of relating with your kids. It will take time and persistence for your kids to start to trust that you really do see the validity of their perspective. It is worth it to stick it out through the awkward stage.
Over all, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Offering validation means seeing and believing in the natural, good intentions of your kids. It means believing and demonstrating that their perspective is equal to yours. When you both see each other as valid, the conflict subsides and you can start to relate to one another with more understanding and cooperation.
For more information on positive parenting, check out my favorite blogs: ahaparenting.com or meaninfulideas.com
Also, the Facebook group, Gentle Parents Unite, is an extremely valuable resource to find one on one parent educator support or peer support for all your positive parenting questions.